Anticipatory grief, anticipating the end of life, can be an incredibly overwhelming experience. So many complex emotions. Such a sense of powerlessness. Subconsciously, people seek order, predictability, control during a time when there just isn’t. This often leads to decisions made or words spoken that inadvertently cause hurt feelings, misunderstandings, and conflict. Anticipatory grief is different for everyone. Just as everyone’s relationship with the person dying is unique. Try to connect to compassion over judgement during times of anticipatory grief, to create space for each person to have time, ritual, acceptance as they prepare to say goodbye. Family dynamics can be challenging on a good day. Everyone has their own way of processing and managing their anticipatory grief. There is not one way, one need, one experience. Some need to be present, to sit vigil, to recall memories, to make amends, to say their goodbyes. They experience this time as gifted time. Others wish to remember their loved one as they were prior to end of life and choose not to be present at bedside. There is no right or wrong way. Love is love. How you love, how you choose to be or not to be during end of life is personal and not a reflection on your relationship or the love you feel. Communicate your needs, your perspective, in a proactive, clear, non judging, and direct manner in order to avoid misunderstanding or assumption of truth. Accept that your way may not be the way of others.
If you find yourself overwhelmed and stuck in judgement, guilt or, conflict: Do not engage.
Instead, take a break:
- Go outside
- Go for a drive
- Take a shower
- Call a supportive friend
- Go for a walk or run
- Meditate, repeat a calming prayer or mantra
- Listen to music
- Breathe in calm, acceptance, love, comfort. Breathe our hurt, anger, disappointment, judgement
- Seek counsel
Think beyond the moment you are in. Do not react, engage or make what could be a permanent decision about temporary feelings. When the fog of deep grief begins to let up, when a new normal without your loved one becomes familiar, you may long for the relationship that was so fragile during anticipatory grief. Remember, compassion over judgement. Self care. Honoring your loved one by remembering them well.